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Re-evaluating syndicalist opposition to the First World War

Darlington, RR 2012, 'Re-evaluating syndicalist opposition to the First World War' , Labor History, 53 (4) . (In Press)

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It has been argued that support for the First World War by the important French syndicalist organisation, the Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT) has tended to obscure the fact that other national syndicalist organisations remained faithful to their professed workers’ internationalism: on this basis syndicalists beyond France, more than any other ideological persuasion within the organised trade union movement in immediate pre-war and wartime Europe, can be seen to have constituted an authentic movement of opposition to the war in their refusal to subordinate class interests to those of the state, to endorse policies of ‘defencism’ of the ‘national interest’ and to abandon the rhetoric of class conflict. This article, which attempts to contribute to a much neglected comparative historiography of the international syndicalist movement, re-evaluates the syndicalist response across a broad geographical field of canvas (embracing France, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Britain and America) to reveal a rather more nuanced, ambiguous and uneven picture. While it highlights the distinctive nature of the syndicalist response compared with other labour movement trends, it also explores the important strategic and tactical limitations involved, including the dilemma of attempting to translate formal syndicalist ideological commitments against the war into practical measures of intervention, and the consequences of the syndicalists’ subordination of the political question of the war to the industrial struggle.

Item Type: Article
Themes: Health and Wellbeing
Schools: Schools > College of Business & Law > Salford Business School > Business and Management Research Centre
Journal or Publication Title: Labor History
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Refereed: Yes
ISSN: 0023-656X
Depositing User: RR Darlington
Date Deposited: 23 Dec 2011 09:59
Last Modified: 29 Oct 2015 00:47

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